A funny thing happens when you start dating someone: People start asking you if, or when, you plan to get engaged. Then you get engaged, and people demand to know if you have set a wedding date. You set a date and get married, and then everyone wants to know when you will be having kids. (OK, in my case we didn’t go in this exact order, but stay with me here). Then you become pregnant, and people want to know the baby’s gender and name. Baby is born. Life changes. You cross over into the parenting world. And then people start asking when you are having another, since your first is so cute and all.
It is actually a bit exhausting, and if you don’t have some solid internal boundaries, it can add up to a lot of pressure. I blame human nature and our desire to inquire. (I am most definitely guilty of some of these inquiries.) But with that being said, I am going to tell you what may (or may not) be going on, on the other side of these questions.
After my partner, Mike, and I had our first child, our world was rocked, and that is putting it mildly. No one was getting much sleep at night. Our daughter was a difficult feeder, and she liked to party at night and only wanted to be held. Mike was working full-time and in school full-time. Money was tight. Emotions (thanks, hormones) were wacky. Life was hectic. That aside, our daughter was also an incredibly happy and smiley baby who hit all of her fun milestones crazy-early. One thing was for sure, life was in session in our home.
A couple of months into parenthood, we started getting the inevitable questions about when we would be having more kids. Most people had an opinion about the matter, telling us things like, “You don’t want them too far apart,” or “You don’t want her to be an only child, then she won’t have anyone,” or “Don’t wait too long!” To be honest, these comments felt intrusive and presumptuous, though I didn’t fully realize it at the time.
And then there were the comments from other moms of two or more children: “One is so easy,” or “You only have one?” Granted, this was not my interaction with all moms of multiples, but there were a few and it caught me off guard. I don’t believe that these comments were meant to be malicious, and I have learned to try not to take others personally (operative word being “try”), but if I am being honest (I am), it felt a little passive-aggressive.
Once upon a time, when being parents was just pillow-talk between Mike and me late at night, we planned on having two children. We each grew up with a sibling, and it seemed the natural thing to do. We also had very strong beliefs about exactly how we would raise our hypothetical children. We were strong in our convictions. We would never raise our voices, never let our baby “cry it out,” never allow our child to throw tantrums in public, would allow for only minimal TV watching, never use modern technology (iPhones/iPads) as a means of child supervision, make all of our own baby food, etc. We were so sure. And we were so wrong. If I have learned one thing from becoming a mother, it is that plans change quickly after a baby is born.
Cut to our daughter’s second birthday — the time of year we had planned to begin trying for baby number two. We sat at or dining room table, the two of us. The conversation began. And then it happened: Mike had changed his mind. I couldn’t believe what he was saying. Was he allowed to do this? Was he allowed to change his mind mid-game? I won’t go in to too many details about why, because that is his story to tell. I am speaking from my own experience, and it would be unfair to my husband if I attempted to write his story.
I will say this: That conversation led to more conversations, arguments, tears, praying, debates, soul-searching, a counseling session (with a not-so-great shrink), lots and lots of writing, weighing of options, and eventually over time, acceptance. For the sake of my marriage and family, I had to come to a few conclusions:
If I believe in a higher power (which I do, and choose to call it God), than I am not really in charge of the whole game plan. I cannot impose my will on anyone else, even my husband. If we are meant to have another child, then it will happen. If we are not meant to have another child, then we won’t. God is either everything or nothing. So in a sense, this situation was forcing me to dig deeper, spiritually.
I was not willing to deceive or trick my husband in order to become pregnant again, and I was not willing to leave the marriage over it. This meant I needed to find a way to be OK with his change of heart. I didn’t have to like it, I just had to find a way to be OK (for now) with it.
In order to become OK, I needed to find a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings that I already had in my life. I had to focus on all of the beautiful things, people, and experiences I am lucky enough to be afforded. I had to recognize that Mike and I are jackpot winners, when it comes to our daughter. I had to remember that not everyone who wants children get children, that some people lose children, and that I have been blessed beyond measure in becoming a mother. I found that when I stay busy focusing on loving and appreciating what I have, I spend less time worrying about what I don’t have.
This doesn’t mean that some days I don’t drift into the worrisome headspace where I compare myself to or feel envious of others. And on those days, when I feel extra sensitive about it all, I do my best to be gentle with myself. I write a gratitude list about my life. I write down five things that I love and appreciate about my husband, I forgive him all over again for not always being perfectly in line with my desires, and I remember that nothing is set in stone.
And some days, I am so content with our little trio that I could explode with joy. I feel a deep sense of closeness between the three of us that is more fulfilling than I am capable of putting into words. I feel lucky. I feel full.
Sometimes I feel like the only person in the world that has experienced this with their spouse, which makes it even more daunting to write about. But the chance that someone may read this and relate, forces me to write my truth. Also, I have learned that when my feelings are fear-based, they’re usually off-base.
At the end of the day, we really don’t know what other families are going through, whether it be fertility issues, losing a child, or situations like mine. What I do know, is that it is never safe to assume. What I have decided to learn from this is that I can be happy. I can be happy if our parenting journey begins and ends with our daughter, or if we go on to have more children. And quite possibly the most important thing that I have learned is that, either way, I am not less of a mom.